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Millions in subsidy for research on Parkinson’s disease

july 5, 2018

Research designed to lead to more refined form of deep brain stimulation

The foundation Stichting de Weijerhorst is offering over two million Euros in support of Maastricht UMC+’s research to improve the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. With the aid of advanced imaging technology, neuroscientists are going to look for the fundamental processes and subtle changes in the brain that contribute to Parkinson’s disease. The hope is that this method will enable the application of an even more effective and refined form of deep brain stimulation. It will also allow more accurate predictions on the progress of the disease.

Deep brain stimulation may be applied in patients in order to keep Parkinson’s disease in check. This involves applying electrodes to specific locations in the brain that can suppress the physical symptoms of the disease such as the typical hand tremors. However, the needs are different for every individual which means that the electrodes must be adjusted continually. Better insight into the functionality of the brain in Parkinson’s patients is necessary in order to ultimately offer the optimal therapy. Stichting de Weijerhorst now offers Maastricht scientists the opportunity to do this.

The brain’s back roads
The underlying cause of Parkinson’s disease continues to be a mystery to the medical world. One thing they do know is that a short circuit develops in different parts of the brain. The Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus has the most powerful MRI scanner in the world, a 9.4 Tesla, which makes it possible to look inside the brain with even more accuracy. “Until now, we have studied the highways and secondary roads in the brain,” neurosurgeon Prof. Dr. Yasin Temel says. “Now we are going to see what happens on the smallest back roads in the brains of Parkinson’s patients. This will provide us with new and valuable information so that we can apply our therapy even more efficiently and customize it to the patient.”

Automatic adjustments
The expectation is that a powerful MRI scanner will make it possible to better visualize subtle changes in the brain. Since brain activity is dynamic and varies from one patient to the next, the stimulator must also be adjusted from time to time. Better insight into the changes in the brain makes it possible to make individual predictions of how the disease is most likely to evolve. The ultimate goal is to develop a new type of stimulator that self-adjusts based on the brain activity of an individual patient.

Valuable project
Chairman of Stichting De Weijerhorst, Prof. Schonis, LL.M. emphasizes the importance of supporting this research project. “We see it as one of our duties to stimulate advancements in medicine. We still know so little about how Parkinson’s disease develops. Fortunately, there are treatments that can mitigate the suffering to some degree. If we can contribute to better insights into and even better diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s, we would be happy to lend our support.”

 

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